When I am writing an answer, especially a detailed one, it's useful to be able to refer to the question to make sure that I am answering everything and doing it in a logical order. Because of this need to refer back to the question, I have to scroll up and down the entire page which takes a while when there are lots of existing answers. This can also be annoying when a lot of the answers I am scrolling past are ones that are greyed out because they did not answer the question.

The crux of the issue is that Stack Exchange is a question-and-answer site, but your answer and the question you're writing an answer to are placed on opposite ends of the page.

The current page structure looks like this:

The current page structure.

Solution 1

One (and my preferred) solution is to have a "Write an answer..." button underneath the question which when clicked on expands to reveal the answer box directly below the question. That way the question and your answer are side-by-side. You could still have another "Write an answer..." button at the very bottom of the page which jumps to the question and does the same thing.

Page structure with answer directly below the question.

Solution 2

Another solution could be to add buttons (which only appear when you have entered something in the answer box) to quickly jump between the question and your answer:

Page structure with buttons to jump between question and answer.

  • 27
    I would just like to say it's a pleasure to see such a well written and detailed feature request Jun 18 at 17:07
  • 1
    @JourneymanGeek Thank you! Jun 18 at 17:09
  • 19
    One point in favour of the current layout is that when a question has many answers already, the user sees them before seeing the invitation to write another one, and (presumably) sees whether what they want to write has already been written. Putting the answer box at the top might result in more duplicated answers to already-heavily-answered questions. That said, the problem you're raising is a real one, sometimes the scroll is so long that I have to open the question in a separate window to be able to cross-reference between it and an answer I'm writing; but this only works with a big screen.
    – kaya3
    Jun 18 at 17:18
  • 3
    @kaya3-supportthestrike I fully agree. I know I'd still read existing answers which is why I personally prefer the first solution, but as I was writing it I realised that like you say a lot of people might write an answer without bothering to check existing answers. That's why the second solution is probably more realistic because you'd only be able to jump between the question and your answer if you had scrolled down past other answers and started writing your own answer. Jun 18 at 17:32
  • 2
    I think you should separate your solution out into a self-answer. At the same time if you recognize the weakness in the first solution I think you would be best to omit it.
    – PolyGeo
    Jun 18 at 21:28
  • 4
    I think there's an alternate solution where the current Answer page gets a new "show question" region above the answer. Collapsed by default, but allows you to see the question on the same screen as the answer you're writing.
    – AMtwo
    Jun 18 at 22:23
  • 2
    @PolyGeo Because it's tagged as a feature-request, I included the solution (a proposed feature) in the post. This is my first post on Meta Stack Exchange though so I accept I might be wrong. To address your second point, I included the first solution in case someone had a suggestion that would eliminate that weakness. Jun 19 at 0:00
  • 1
    @AMtwo This is definitely an interesting suggestion. Also, in a similar vein a fourth solution could be a button above the answer box which collapses all other existing answers. Jun 19 at 0:03

1 Answer 1


There's another related idea I've been thinking about: If the viewport is wide enough (responsive design), I think it would be even nicer to put them side by side- perhaps even with individual scrollbars. I'd even think shifting the sidebar to go under the portion for the question and answer-draft would be okay (I rarely (never?) need info from the sidebar when drafting an answer).

  • 4
    I prefer having them stacked but I could see how others would like this, especially those on wider monitors. Perhaps there could be a button to toggle between the traditional stacked layout and this side-by-side layout. The = and || shapes would make pretty intuitive icons for that button. Jun 19 at 0:09
  • In the meantime, this suggests an obvious and in many ways superior workaround, if you have the screen real estate, and are working on a desktop computer; open two browers windows, and position them however you like. Unfortunately, mobile OSes tend to not have this functionality, though you can somewhat clumsily simulate it by having two browser tabs and cycling between them.
    – tripleee
    Jun 19 at 3:14
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    @tripleee my paranoid brain gets paranoid about having two pages open and writing an answer in one of them and what could possibly go wrong if I do something weird in the other.
    – starball
    Jun 19 at 8:54
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    I do this from time to time and never had any issues. The famous (or now, infamous) auto-save feature means you have a fairly recent version of your answer visible in the other window too if you should choose to continue composing it there.
    – tripleee
    Jun 19 at 9:15

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